Well Spring is the air and winter is finally behind us. The days are getting warmer and the daffs are sprouting as though there’s no tomorrow. The sun filters in through our windows and we look around aghast at the many cobwebs adorning our ceilings that we hadn’t even realised were there. I mean how exactly do they get there undetected? And so the mammoth Spring clean begins. And with that my thoughts always turn to our sitting room fireplace. The workhorse that keeps us warm through winter now looks forlorn and uncared for. So let me walk you through restoring a cast iron fireplace (my own sitting room fireplace is for today our model) after winter has departed and spring has finally sprung. The way my granny taught me.
My sitting room fireplace before it’s Spring clean
If like me you’ve put off clearing the ash since you last lit your fire we need to have a good old tidy up. Use a dustpan and brush give it a good sweep not forgetting the back and sides which always get sooty too. You never manage to get it all though so once you’ve swept use your vacuum cleaner to finish the job off. Make sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Do not under any circumstances use the vacuum without using a dustpan and brush first, it’s a sure fire (pun intended) way to clog it up and create one hell of a sooty mess for you to clean up. Just a quick note here to mention that it’s best to wear gloves for this job (washing up gloves will suffice). It’s a messy old job.
Using a wire brush to get into all the nooks and crannies
Now we’re less dusty its time to give all the nooks and crannies a good going over with a wire brush. You will be surprised just how much extra soot is still clinging on. Give it another hoover and then wipe it down with a dry cloth. What ever you do, never (I repeat never) use water on a cast iron fireplace to wipe it down. It will without a shadow of a doubt create rust spots. To a degree they are inevitable as some water does make it down the chimney. And there is always moisture in the air too but the use of a damp cloth will make this far, far worse. So first up ask yourself is any rust visible? If the answer is yes most can be rubbed away with a wire brush. Any stubborn bits or more rusty areas need to be treated with genolite. It’s a rust converter, just spread a little on and wait for it to turn black and the cast iron underneath with look like new.
Spraying on my Genolite
For some reason, I think probably the warmth from use, my sitting room fireplace never gets rusty. In stark contrast my dining room is the complete opposite. I think it’s because it never gets any use at all. It is covered in rust spots so it’s also getting in on the spruce up and modelling the rust converter for us today. Well it had to get in on the act too didn’t it? And I’ll end up with not one but two sparkling fireplaces.
Applying the polish
Now it’s time to get your fireplace looking gorgeous. I use Stovax Black Grate Polish which is a black paste containing graphite (err, the clue was in the name Rach). Why the graphite I hear you ask? Well this is the magic ingredient that gives the wonderful lustre you will see at the end. It’s basically a paste similar in texture to shoe polish. I apply mine in fact with a shoe polish brush or a paintbrush for the nooks and crannies. The bristles are just the right texture to get into all the nooks and crannies even for the most intricate of designs.
Finally revealing the beautiful lustre that only cast iron has
Once you’ve gone over your whole fireplace with the paste it’s now time to go have a coffee or tend to another job for a couple of hours whilst the paste dries a little. I find it’s easier to leave it a while before you commence polishing. Remember to put those gloves back on, you will thank me later! Now let the polishing commence. I find a micro fibre cloths the best as they are lint free. They tend not to snag on the detailing of the fireplace too. Just keep buffing away until you uncover the gleam of your once again ‘beauty to behold’ cast iron fireplace.
And there you have it, the old school way for restoring a cast iron fireplace after winter. A job I used to help my grandmother with when I was small. This guide follows her exact technique. So come on guys, give your fireplace some love and get those gloves on! Maybe shop the house too and give the mantle a mini makeover.